Scotland the Brave

Welcome to the first post on the ‘Scotland the Brave’ chapter.

Scotland has a population of around five and half million. Whilst a part of the UK, since 1999 it has achieved increasing legislative powers with it’s own devolved government and much more autonomy over internal social, economic and environmental development policies and programmes.

Community Development has had a long tradition in Scotland. This goes back in part to a strong ‘socialist/co-operative’ ethos that existed and in part still exists. But it was not until the mid-1970s that central and local government began to invest in community development strategies and community development posts, primarily as a feature of the Labour party’s policies to address multiple deprivation and social ‘problems’ in urban and rural communities.

The employment of community development workers in any number occurred at this time, located primarily within local authority Social Work and Community Education services. The non-governmental sector also increasingly employed staff with community development expertise with funds generally from government.

The first professional community development qualification was established by Edinburgh University in the late 1960s, but intended more for overseas development practice. The Labour government established a Working Party on professional training which recommended in 1977 the establishment of community work type qualifications for domestic practice. These were provided at colleges (later universities) in Dundee, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Glasgow university also led on the inclusion of community work within social work training. Since the late 1980s the majority of professional CD training courses have been validated and endorsed by the government established and funded Community Education Validation and Endorsement Committee, now replaced by the Community Learning and Development Standards Council for Scotland. In 1999 Scottish CD interests played a central role in establishing a UK-wide body responsible for ensuring national CD occupational standards.

It was not until the late 1970s that a discrete professional association for practitioners, the Scottish Association of Community Workers was established (linked with the UK’s ACW). Hundreds of appointments were made by local authorities in the 1970s and 80s and by the voluntary sector and it was estimated at the time that there were c1000 identifiable community development type professional practitioners.

From the early 1990s the quasi-governmental agency, the Scottish Community Education Council (SCEC) established and provided the secretariat for a Scottish Community Work Forum (SCWF), which brought together national agencies concerned with community development. The SCWF has since morphed into Community Development Alliance Scotland and the Scottish Association of Community Workers has since been replaced by the Scottish Community Development Network has since been replaced by the Scottish Community Development Network. These two bodies are also closely linked with the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) a national development centre supporting research and practice set up in 1992. SCDC is now the main national development centre supporting policy and practice across Scotland, working closely with central government, local councils and other bodies e.g. in the public health field. SCDC also houses the International Association for Community Development, the Scottish Community Development and Health network and has also provided support for the European Community Development Network.

Increased investment in community development projects and posts continued through the 1980s but on a shorter term basis and against a backdrop of a considerable increase in numbers of people living in poverty and with totemic events such as the 1984 coal miners’ strike presenting new challenges. In 1997 the return of a Labour government brought with it a strong push on community planning, encouraging a more joined up approach to tackling social and other issues by local government and non-governmental agencies. For a few years in the early 2000s this was supported by a national body called Communities Scotland, established by the new Scottish government after the re-establishment of Scotland’s parliament in 1999.

Subsequently the post 2007 Scottish National Party government has changed some of the national landscape, but generally continued Labour’s push on community planning and empowerment, leading in 2016 to the Community Empowerment Act. This strengthens communities’ rights to access land and building for community benefit and generally enhances public participation in planning.

In the 2000s the Carnegie Trust based in Scotland, set up a Committee of Inquiry into the future of rural community development leading to a national Charter and funding for an international network of rural CD practitioners in partnership with IACD. This Commission also led to greater awareness across rural CD practice about sustainable development and the links between social, economic and environmental development.

Although there were the beginnings of a home grown Scottish CD literature and research in the 1970s, it was not until the early 1990s that the Scottish Community Education Council (SCEC) a quasi-governmental national development agency began publishing the Scottish Journal of Community Work and Development, in partnership with Glasgow University and the Journal of Community Education Practice Theory, in partnership with Edinburgh University. Glasgow University has also recently published a Radical Community Work Journal. SCDC, SCEC and the CLDSC have produced a rich canon of Scottish CD related publications.


Two useful texts to give GCDEX readers more of a taste about CD in Scotland are:

The Making of an Empowering Profession. Published in 1996, followed by editions in 1997 and 2002. Edited by Charlie McConnell:

Influencing Change: CLD in Scotland, 2001-2015. Published in 2016. Edited by Colin Ross.

Both of these can be found in the GCDEX.

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